The accompanying research into nature conservation is an important part of the research work at the wind energy test site in the Swabian Alb. The project “NatForWINSENT - Nature Conservation Research at the Wind Energy Test Site” is a study of the behaviour of birds and bats in the vicinity of wind turbines. There is a bird radar, for example, which records flight movements and migration habits. At the same time, the research scientists are developing innovative techniques to protect birds and bats and better ways of preventing them from colliding with wind turbines in the future. The effectiveness of these preventive measures will be assessed at the site with the help of the extensive technical capabilities at Stöttener Berg.
Detection systems which are already available on the market will also be tested for technical reliability. Microphones which can be used to record bats have also been attached to the wind measurement masts at various heights and to the tower and nacelle of the research turbines. 3D thermal imaging cameras will provide evidence of the flight patterns of the bats in the area around the turbines. The results are to be correlated with the number of insects at different heights and at different wind speeds and temperatures. The project will be carried out with experienced research scientists from respected institutions, including some in Austria and Switzerland.
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit - BMU) and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (Bundesamt für Naturschutz - BfN).
The primary aims of the nature conservation research at the wind energy test site are to develop and test protective measures and better ways of preventing birds from colliding with wind turbines. This work most notably includes technical systems for the detection of birds. In order to examine their capability more closely, the behaviour of birds of prey at the test site is studied in detail using radar, telemetry and laser rangefinders. The focus in Germany is mainly on the red kite, therefore several red kites living at the test site have already been fitted with GPS transmitters. Their flight movements are now continuously recorded and viewed in relation to meteorological parameters, to name but one approach.
The bat activity at different heights at the test site is tracked continuously – not only on the wind turbines themselves, but also on the four wind measurement masts – and is viewed in relation to meteorological data. A 3D thermal imaging camera system also records the flight paths of bats in order to analyse the specific circumstances and causes of collisions. The ultimate aims are to develop new preventive measures or to optimise existing techniques, with shutdown algorithms being the most notable example.
Precious little is known to date about the effect of wind turbines on insects in terms of whether they attract or scare them off, although there is thought to be a direct connection between insect activity and the endangerment of bats near wind turbines, for example. Special camera traps and radar measurements are used at the test field to track insect activity in order to investigate how dependent the quantity of insects and their distribution in different locations and at varying times are on meteorological parameters.